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Azlan Shah: India shock world champions Australia

Source: PTI
May 10, 2010 19:38 IST
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India dazzled with a near-perfect performance to stun world champions Australia 4-3 in a pulsating round-robin match of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament at Ipoh on Monday. 

Tushar Khandker (19th and 32nd minute), captain Rajpal Singh (21st) and Shivendra Singh (61st) scored for India while Trent Milton (38th), Christopher Ciriello (40th) and Mark Paterson (70th) were the Australian marksmen. 

With today's win, India are the only undefeated side in the tournament topping the seven team table with ten points from three wins and one draw, while Australia have six points from three outings.

Defending champions India, who led 3-0 at half time, recorded their first win against Australia since 2003.

Both the sides though came to the tournament without some key players. 

India outplayed Australia in the first half with an intelligent gameplan to contain their rivals and silence their attacks. Their ball rotation and short passes were exemplary as the attacking midfielders supported the forwards to mesmerise the Australian defence. 

India did not allow the Australian forwards to attack from the centre as Rajpal, Mandeep Antil and Shivendra  denied the space. That forced the Aussies to run down the flanks which the Indian deep defence and wing halfs anticipated with perfection. 

Jose Brasa's men used both flanks with wingers Mandeep Antil and Tushar Khandker with good measure while Rajpal and Shivendra led the onslaughts down the centre. 

India wasted three scoring chances to break into the lead. First, Khandker was foiled by sweeper Christopher Ciriello followed by Sarvanjit Singh's double fumble at the goalmouth.

India, however, drew first blood in the 19th minute from a move engineered by Arjun Halappa and Gurbaj Singh. Shivendra took over and he pushed the ball to the waiting Khandker to apply the finishing touch.

Bouyed by the lead, India fired another goal two minutes later as Rajpal nailed home from a brilliant move crafted by a Halappa and Danish Mujtaba combination. 

Australia's woes continued as the Indians increased their tally to 3-0 in the 32nd minute as Khandker found the mark again from Antil's cross. 

After the breather, a determined Australians came firing on all cylinders and the Indian deep defence was repeatedly outwitted by their strikers Grant Schubert, Mark Paterson and Timothy Devin. 

A misunderstanding between Sardar Singh and Dhananjay Mahadik resulted in Trent sneaking into the circle to beat Indian goalkeeer Sreejesh with a deft flick in the 38th minute.

Two minutes later, India conceded the first penalty corner which Ciriello sank into the goal to further reduce the margin.

India continued to commit unforced errors as Bharat Chikara, Mahadik and Ravi Pal Singh failed to anticipate the Australian raids. They won two more penalty corners in quick succession but could not find the equaliser. 

In the 61st minute, India scored from a counter-attack with Rajpal manouvering on the left flank past Kiel Brown to set up Shivendra who beat George Bazeley under the bars to record the fourth goal. 

The Indians looked like to win the match 4-2 but only to succumb to Mark Paterson's strike in the last minute after incessant Australian attack.

India play hosts Malaysia on Wednesday. They play their last round-robin match against Egypt on May 15.

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